Caring for Orphaned Kittens

Stray cats are often found wondering the neighborhood, and the number of them often increase in the winter months. Have you found a litter of kittens that lost their mother? Not sure what to do with them? Monderncat.com tells us how to handle this situation!

Caring for Kittens Without a Mother

If the kittens are under four weeks old, they need to be housed in a way that keeps them safe and warm, and they need to be bottle-fed until they are big enough to graduate first to gruel and then solid food. The tips here will help you set up a cozy and safe home for the kittens and will let you know what to expect in those first weeks.

A warm kitten is a Healthy Kitten

Keep kittens warm. A dog crate or kennel is a good choice of enclosure for keeping the kittens safe and contained, as well as for monitoring the temperature. This is important because keeping kittens warm is crucial. Janice Dankert, Best Friends community cat program supervisor, explains, “When kittens are cold, their bodily functions quit working.” If any of the kittens are limp or minimally responsive, or are cool or cold to the touch, this is indicative of an emergency situation – you should provide heat to the kitten and take him or her to the vet right away.

Best Friends veterinarian, Dr. Patti Patterson, recommends keeping the room temperature above 75 degrees or so. Kittens also need constant heat by way of a heating pad, without an automatic shutoff, set on low. Trielle Gritton, senior manager of adoptions and outreach at Best Friends Animal Society–Utah, says, “The heating pad should be covered in cloth – old towels, throws or blankets work well. And it should only cover half the enclosure, so the kittens can move away from it.”

Regular monitoring is important to ensure the kittens aren’t too hot or cold. Dr. Patti says, “If the kittens feel cold to the touch, they’re too cold. They should feel toasty warm, but if they are panting or seem to be stretched out away from each other, this may indicate too much heat – you can turn down the heating pad or open the top of the dog crate to allow the area to cool down.”

Trielle adds, “It is also very important to remember that a kitten should never be fed cold formula, and they should never be fed if they are cold.”
Feeding time

“Kittens need to be bottle-fed formula until they’re about four weeks old, and then they can begin to wean,” says Trielle. If you have found the kittens after the pet supply store has closed for the day, you can use goat’s milk as a stopgap, but this should not be used for an extended period of time.

Trielle says, “It is important to note that kittens should never be fed on their backs, but their bellies should always touch the floor (or other surface) when being bottle-fed.” Best Friends veterinarian, Dr. Patti Patterson, recommends allowing the kittens to eat until satiated. On average, it should take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to properly feed each kitten at every stage until weaned.

Kittens also need help eliminating (going to the bathroom) until they are about three to four weeks old. To do this, use a warm, damp washcloth to gently massage the anal area until they go. This should be done every time you feed each kitten. A litter box with only non-clumping litter can be introduced when kittens are about three weeks of age. Kittens will not have solid stool while still drinking formula.

When providing for your kittens, the Barkery is the perfect place to go. Well-trained staff can advise you as to which food you should get as well as recommend toys and beds your new kittens are sure to love!